【評論】Zalan-Zalan – Concerto for percussion and orchestra

This concerto is fantastic for me. It gives me a clear and bright vision about a young and talent percussion artist’s life. I am happy to give a short review for the world premier of this masterpiece.

“Zalan-Zalan” is mean “small path” in Austronesian language. The composer Julie Spencer is a great percussion artist, composer, and educator in America. Gernot Blume is a ethnomusicologist in German. They work together and completely analyze the pattern of indigenous and Chinese music in Taiwan, provided from prof. Tsang-Houei Hsu. So in this concerto, the music style is familiar with Chinese or indigenous music but without any origin. Moreover, This concerto is commissioned by young percussionist Wei-Chen Lin, the soloist of this performance. Julie follow Wei-Chen’s life course and emotion in composing this 3-movement percussion concerto “Zalan-Zalan”.

The first movement andante style, about 86-88 beats per minute. In my opinion, faster would be better. This piece just look like “daily life of the horde”. Everything is fine. Everyone is happy and joy. No suffer, no pain, and no ecstasy. Motive of this movement pass between solo and orchestra smoothly, just like a normal percussion students in Taiwan. Wei-Chen studied percussion performance in music talented class from elementary school to collage. His life in this stage was just familiar with most students who study music performance in Taiwan.

The second movement impress me very much. In the beginning, I think this piece would be very lyrical and solemn, like a ritual for the ancestors. However, the solo break my imagination later. It’s a formal ceremony, not a solemn ritual. In my hometown, indigenous horde and Chinese town is mixed together. One of my neighborhood, a family of Puyuma, they always drink and sing in summer night, especially near by the harvest festival. How happiness they are, is hard to express by words. This movement give me this feeling. As I compared with life course if Wei-Chen, the vision is changed. He continuously study percussion performance in America, a country with multiple cultures combination which is totally different to his origin. The culture shock is everywhere all the time. As the time near the ceremony, did he just sit under the moon light and hum lullaby from homeland?

The last movement is a toccata. The music style is whole different with previous movements. Previous movements is focused on western percussion instruments like marimba and timpani. In this movement, the main characters are eastern percussion: Chinese hand cymbal, tang drum, and gongs. After PhD. graduation, Wei-Chen developed his career in PRC. Not only traditional Chinese music, but also abundant western-style popular music is filled in this ancient country.

The author performed in this hall once before. In my opinion, this hall is incredible for music playing. the sound on the stage could not pass forward to auditorium, even it’s loud on the stage. However, Wei-Chen could easily pass his performance to the farest audience in this performance. Moreover in the second movement, composer write many glissando carried out by pedal of timpani to simulate the portamento from humming. The pedal glissando is very difficult and hard to be listened and he made the performance very clear. What the outstanding techniques he have!

The orchestra, Taipei Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, hold their position as just a accompany and played a cool and controlled sound in this concerto. Compared with passionate performance from soloist, the controlled playing from orchestra provide a novel effect. However, soloist sometimes needed support from orchestra in some parts and orchestra could not support him very well. If this concerto would be played in the future, I suggest that the connection between soloist and orchestra need to be considered.

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